Dead North Atlantic right whale washing ashore in Virginia Beach. Photo: Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center Foundation’s Stranding Response Program (VAQS). Photos taken under NOAA Fisheries Permit #24359

VA - Critically endangered North Atlantic right whale found dead in Virginia

(Virginia Beach – February 14, 2023) – A critically endangered North Atlantic right whale was found dead this week, washing ashore in Virginia Beach, VA. With fewer than 340 of the species estimated alive today, and no more than 70 breeding females remaining, even one death spells tragedy for the population.

The whale measures approximately 45 feet in length, identified by researchers as a 20-year-old male due to distinguishing markings. It was first seen on Sunday and landed on shore by Monday morning.

A team of experts from IFAW is arriving on-site as part of a multi-agency effort at Virginia Beach to assist in a necropsy—an animal autopsy—that is vital to help understand the cause of the whale’s death, and what can prevent such an event in the future.

“This is another dead whale that the species just can’t afford to lose,” says Kathleen Collins, IFAW Marine Campaigns Manager. “Every individual animal is critical to the survival of the right whale population, and at least three have died and two new serious injury cases have been documented already this year. Urgent action is needed on the water now to stop the species sliding into extinction.”

IFAW’s Marine Mammal Rescue & Research team was called in for its expertise based on over two decades of industry-leading research and innovation on Cape Cod—a region identified as a global hotspot for cetacean stranding activity.

The necropsy will be performed alongside a team of experts operating as a part of NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Additional information on the cause of death is forthcoming.


For more information on protecting the last of the North Atlantic right whales, visit www.ifaw.org/sotw.

Report a stranded or injured marine animal anywhere along the coast via NOAA Fisheries.

Press Contact:

Stacey Hedman
Communications Director
m: +1 508 737 2558
e: shedman@ifaw.org

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